Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gates Tries to Stem Drip, Drip of Bush Torture

In his remarks before a security forum, Defense Chief Robert Gates said “prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay and other mistakes have damaged America's reputation, and work must be done to prove the U.S. is still a force for good in the world.”

He went on the say for the last century most people believed that while we might do something stupid once in awhile, the U.S. was a force for good in the world. However the steady drip, drip of President Bush’s heavy handed prisoner policies made Mr. Gates’ words hard to hear.

A Wisconsin University professor saw something different from the new Defense Chief in those pictures from Abu Ghraib. The history teacher saw not “mistakes” but systematic use of CIA refined torture techniques.

In April 2004, Americans were stunned when CBS broadcast those now-notorious photographs from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, showing hooded Iraqis stripped naked while U.S. soldiers stood by smiling. As this scandal grabbed headlines around the globe, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the abuses were "perpetrated by a small number of U.S. military," whom New York Times’ columnist William Safire soon branded "creeps"--a line that few in the press had reason to challenge.

When I looked at these photos, I did not see snapshots of simple brutality or a breakdown in military discipline. After more than a decade of studying the Philippine military’s torture techniques for a monograph published by Yale back 1999, I could see the tell-tale signs of the CIA’s psychological methods. For example, that iconic photo of a hooded Iraqi with fake electrical wires hanging from his extended arms shows, not the sadism of a few “creeps,” but instead the two key trademarks of the CIA’s psychological torture. The hood was for sensory disorientation. The arms were extended for self-inflicted pain. It was that simple; it was that obvious.

While Mr. Gates can tell the world “that the U.S. has to do a better job of explaining its policies and actions”, it doesn’t mean the world will buy any sophisticated message management. Ask Karen Hughes about that.

His Stephen Colbert handling of Russian President Putin’s stinging criticism of the United States may buy Mr. Gates some time. Unfortunately George Bush has used up all his political capital worldwide and operates from a deficit. The Bush incited arms race is back, fast and furious, and this time sponsored by the Project for the New American Century…

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